While The Tragic Thrills is a fairly new endeavor for frontman Zach Porter and his bandmates Michael Martinez, Brent Schneider and Cameron Quinseng, they are, all four of them, seasoned musicians and songwriters with previous releases and extensive touring under their belts. Of course that explains why the ten songs which populate the band’s independently released and self-titled debut are so damn good. Infectious and idiosyncratic, sublimely creative and wholly inspired, sharply intelligent and deeply emotive, The Tragic Thrills’ seem completely determined to break down the enormous barrier separating the mainstream from the underground. X marks the spot: the formerly empty lot, metaphorically speaking, where The Tragic Thrills poured their foundation of sound, tracing their initials in the wet cement with their fingers, and where they proceeded to build this ten-level house of an album…and still, it is positively bursting at the seams with pop sensibility and indie rock substance. But such a sound is not an easy thing to put into words—an issue which, to me, suggests some transcendent aspect or other—and all I can really say, without much preamble or excessive decoration, is that The Tragic Thrills have crafted a smart, catchy compositions from all the best parts of today’s fringe music, and then some, where styles like live-wire pop, indie rock, art-core, and something as yet unnamed which belongs solely to the Thrills. Whatever it is, The Thrills’ superb sound-crafting and engaging execution are attached to a singular purpose decidedly more base in nature than self-expression or music for the sake of art: to provide their listeners, each and each, with mighty, quaking eargasms. And in that respect, The Tragic Thrills know how to get you off.
To hell with genres and subgenres, anyway! The Thrills just make good music. Plain and simple. Besides, categorizing a band oftentimes erects walls that would not have appeared around it otherwise, blocking it from certain areas of desired progression and experimentation. Call it whatever you want; The Tragic Thrills will just call it music. Thrills frontman and chief songwriter Zach Porter was quoted as having said, “My aim is to be earnest and have integrity.” An admirable goal, to be sure, and one in which I believe he was successful.
So, yes, The Tragic Thrills possess an exceedingly unique sound, an absolutely magnetic sound. And if what I have put down in this review thus far is falling short in respect to The Tragic Thrills’ sound…and if I were pressed to provide comparisons, I would have to clumsily blurt out that The Tragic Thrills’ music is what might result from a seven-way orgy of sound between Alexander, Hospital Ships, Love Boat, Modest Mouse, Hockey Night, The Maccabees, and The Hold Steady. Well, sort of.
With impossibly catchy melodies, tight and punctuating rhythms, elegant cello bowing, pristine piano, and vibrantly expressive vocals, The Tragic Thrills move through their early repertoire of ten highly elaborate charts of sonic exploration, with which they circumnavigate the musical globe in the space it takes their album to play through. By and large, The Tragic Thrills’ debut is altogether charismatic…so much so that it absorbs the listener completely, awesomely expansive yet interspersed with tiny moments, beautiful moments, marked by the heart.
Lyrically, Porter has a habit of expertly skinning the subject to expose its meat, an in so doing carves thick slices of wit and wordplay, poetry and confessionals, bedroom philosophy and personal tidbits and the sort of meaning which doesn’t utterly corrupt innocence but certainly flirts with it. And as far as his vocal delivery, it is full of attitude yet likeability. What’s more, it is rather flexible and can bend itself around each song to accommodate its shape and to hold in its heavy center.
When I first received my copy of The Tragic Thrills debut I didn’t quite know what to do with it. An immediate review seemed unlikely since their songs collectively were a very different breed of animal than I am admittedly accustomed to, and I wasn’t sure how to go about it. The more I listened to the album, however, the more I came to appreciate it, until I was utterly taken with it. Once this one gets its hooks in you, you'll find yourself with the album on repeat for days at a time. It's addictive as hell!